A mildly enjoyable if open-ended romp.



The author of Go the Fuck to Sleep (2011) joins Zweibel to craft a (somewhat) more conventional tale, featuring a seventh-grader who gets unexpected help navigating middle school rapids.

In a plotline wrought from standard-issue tropes, from stepdad issues and feeling left behind by peers to poop references and vomiting all over a crush, the authors do get in some memorable twists. Assigned to write a letter to a historical figure, Franklin “Ike” Saturday pens a whiny missive to his namesake that gets mailed—and, unexpectedly, elicits a response from the great man himself. Purportedly, anyway: “old” Franklin’s spiteful reference to Jefferson as “a slave owner with a multitude of unaccounted-for progeny” and later boast of “lamps that represent the cutting edge in whale oil–fueled technology” sound strangely modern. In any case, the two Franklins find common ground in a regular, if irregularly capitalized, correspondence (“I’m very Grateful, and anything I can do to help you Screw Over Jefferson and the rest of those clowns, just let me know”). Meanwhile, against all odds, Ike hits it off with dazzling classmate Claire Wanzandae, particularly after the vomiting incident (caused by a boneheaded effort to impress by chugging beer) triggers an exchange of heartfelt letters of apology. Sending old Franklin modern documents that threaten to derail the American Revolution will definitely be harder to fix…stay tuned. The episode’s coyly blacked-out title is no more than a marketing ploy, as the correspondence is generally an amicable one.

A mildly enjoyable if open-ended romp. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4847-1304-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The novel’s dryness is mitigated in part by its exploration of immigrant identity, xenophobia, and hate crimes.


Seventh graders Karina Chopra and Chris Daniels live in Houston, Texas, and although they are next-door neighbors, they have different interests and their paths rarely cross.

In fact, Karina, whose family is Indian, doesn’t want to be friends with Chris, whose family is white, because the boys he hangs out with are mean to her. Things change when Karina’s immigrant paternal grandfather, Papa, moves in with Karina’s family. Papa begins tutoring Chris in math, and, as a result, Chris and Karina begin spending time with each other. Karina even comes to realize that Chris is not at all like the rest of his friends and that she should give him a second chance. One day, when Karina, Papa, and Chris are walking home from school, something terrible happens: They are assaulted by a stranger who calls Papa a Muslim terrorist, and he is badly injured. The children find themselves wanting to speak out for Papa and for other first-generation Americans like him. Narrated by Karina and Chris in alternate chapters, Bajaj’s novel gives readers varied and valuable perspectives of what it means to be first- and third-generation Indian Americans in an increasingly diverse nation. Unfortunately, however, Bajaj’s characters are quite bland, and the present-tense narrative voices of the preteen protagonists lack both distinction and authenticity.

The novel’s dryness is mitigated in part by its exploration of immigrant identity, xenophobia, and hate crimes. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51724-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...


A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?